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The Greek Maid.
The Duke of Milan.
contain the names of various plays represented at / wreck in the same place; then, we are to blame if court; and it is to be noted, that it was certainly the we accept it not for a rock. Upon the back of that practice at a later date, and it was probably the comes out a hideous monster with fire and smoke, practice at the time to which we are now adverting, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take to select for performance before the Queen such it for a cave; while, in the meantime, two armies pieces as were most in favor with public audiences: fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, consequently the mention of a few of the titles of and then what hard heart will not receive it for a productions represented before Elizabeth at Green- pitched field ? Now, of time they are much more wich, Whitehall, Richmond, or Nonesuch, will show liberal; for ordinary it is that two young princes fall the character of the popular performances of the in love: after many traverses she is got with child, day. We derive the following names from Mr. P. delivered of a fair boy; he is lost, groweth a man, Cunningham's “Extracts from the Revels' Accounts," falleth in love, and is ready to get another child, printed for the Shakespeare Society :
and all this in two hours' space: which how absurd Lady Barbara.
it is in sense, even sense may imagine, and art hath Iphigenia.
Portio and Dr.morantes. taught, and all ancient examples justified."
Titus and Gisippus.
Having thus briefly adverted to the nature and Paris and Vienna
Cruelty of a Stepmother.
character of dramatic representations from the The Play of Fortune.
earliest times to the year 1583, and having estabAlemæon.
Rape of the second Helen. lished that our romantic drama was of ancient oriQuintus Fabius.
The Four Sons of Fabius. Timoclea at the Siege of Thebes. History of Sarpedon.
gin, it is necessary shortly to describe the circumPerseus and Andromeda.
stances under which plays were at different early The Painter's Daughter. Scipio Africanus.
periods performed. The History of the Collier.
There were no regular theatres, or buildings perThe History of Error.
manently constructed for the purposes of the drama, These are only a few out of many dramas, establishing until after 1575. Miracle-plays were sometimes the multiplicity of sources to which the poets of the exhibited in churches and in the halls of corporatime resorted.
tions, but more frequently upon moveable stages, or Upon the manner in which the materials thus scaffolds, erected in the open air. Moral plays were procured were then handled, we have several con- subsequently performed under nearly similar circumtemporaneous authorities. George Whetstone, (an stances, excepting that a practice had grown up, author who has principally acquired celebrity by among the nobility and wealthier gentry, of having writing an earlier drama upon the incidents employed dramatic entertainments at particular seasons in by Shakespeare in his “ Measure for Measure”) in their own residences. These were sometimes per the dedication of his “ Promos and Cassandra," formed by a company of actors retained in the famgives a compendious description of the nature of ily, and sometimes by itinerant players, who bepopular theatrical representations in 1578. “The longed to large towns, or who called themselves the Englishman," he remarks, “in this quality is most servants of members of the aristocracy. In 14 Eliz. vain, indiscreet, and out of order. He first grounds an act was passed allowing strolling actors to perbis work on impossibilities; then, in three hours, runs form, if licensed by some baron or nobleman of he through the world, marries, gets children, makes higher degree, but subjecting all others to the pen. children men, men to conquer kingdoms, murder alties inflicted upon vagrants. Therefore, although monsters, and bringeth gods from heaven, and many companies of players went round the country, fetcheth devils from hell: and, that which is worst, and acted as the servants of some of the nobility, their ground is not so unperfect as their working they had no legislative protection until 1572. It is indiscreet; not weighing, so the people laugh, though a singular fact, that the earliest known company of they laugh them for their follies to scorn, Many players, travelling under the name and patronage times, to make mirth, they make a clown companion of one of the nobility, was that of the Duke of with a king : in their grave councils they allow the Gloucester, afterward Richard III. Henry VII. advice of fools; yea, they use one order of speech had two distinct bodies of "actors of interludes" for all persons, a gross indecorum.” This, it will be in his pay, and henceforward the profession of a perceived, is an accurate account of the ordinary player became well understood and recognised. In license taken in our romantic drama, and of the the later part of the reign of Henry VII., the playreliance of poets, long before the time of Shake- ers of the Dukes of Norfolk and Buckingham, and speare, upon the imaginations of their auditors. of the Earls of Arundel, Oxford, and Northumber.
Sir Philip Sidney is believed to have written his land, performed at court. About this period, and " Apology of Poetry” in 1583, and we have already somewhat earlier, we also hear of companies atreferred to it in connection with “Gorboduc." His tached to particular places; and in coeval records observations, upon the general character of dramatic we read of the players of York, Coventry, Lavenrepresentations in his time, throw much light on the ham, Wycombe, Chester, Manningtree, Evesham, state of the stage a very few years before Shakespeare Mile-end, Kingston, &c. is supposed to have quitted Stratford-upon-Avon, and In the reign of Henry VIII., and perhaps in that attached himself to a theatrical company. “Our of his predecessor, the gentlemen and singing-boys tragedies and comedies," says Sidney, "are not with of the Chapel Royal were employed to act plays out cause cried out against, observing neither rules and interludes before the court; and afterwards the of honest civility, nor skilful poetry.
But if children of Westminster, St. Paul's, and Windsor, it be so in Gorboduc, how much more in all the rest, under their several masters, are not unfrequently where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Afric mentioned in the household books of the palace, of the other, and so many other under-kingdoms, and in the accounts of the department of the revels. that the player, when he comes in, must ever begin In 1514 the king added a new company to the with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be dramatic retinue of the court, besides the two conconceived. Now you shall have three ladies walk panies which had been paid by his father, and the to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage associations of theatrical children. In fact, at this to be a garden: by and by we hear news of a ship- period dramatic entertaiments, masques disguisings, and revels of every description, were carried to a connection with theatrical representations at the costly excess. Henry VIII. raised the sum, until opening of the reign of ElizabethAt first plays then paid for a play, from £6 138. 4d. to £10. were discountenanced, but by degrees they were William Cornyshe, the master of the children of permitted; and the queen seems at all times to the chapel, on one occasion was paid no less a sum have derived much pleasure from the services of than £200, in the money of that time, by way of her own players, those of her nobility, and of the reward ; and John Heywood, the author of inter- different companies of children belonging to Westludes before mentioned, who was also a player upon minster, St. Paul's, Windsor, and the Chapel Royal. the virginals, had a salary of £20 per annum, in ad- In 1572 the act was passed (which was renewed dition to his other emoluments. During seasons of with additional force in 1597) to restrain the numfestivity a Lord of Misrule was regularly appointed ber of itinerant performers Two years afterward, to superintend the sports, and he also wus separately the Earl of Leicester obtained from Elizabeth a and liberally remunerated. The example of the patent under the great seal, to enable his players, court was followed by the courtiers, and the com- James Burbage, John Perkyn, John Lanham, Wilpanies of theatrical retainers, in the pay, or acting liam Johnson, and Robert Wilson, to perform in various parts of the kingdom under the names of “comedies, tragedies, interludes, and stage-plays," particular noblemen, became extremely numerous. in any part of the kingdom, with the exception of Religious houses gave them encouragement, and the metropolis. even assisted in the getting up and representation The Lord Mayor and Aldermen succeeded in exof the performances, especially shortly before the cluding the players from the strict boundaries of the dissolution of the monasteries.
city, but they were not able to shut them out of the In 1543 was passed a statute, rendered necessary liberties; and it is not to be forgotten that James by the polemical character of some of the dramas Burbage and his associates were supported by court publicly represented, although not many years be- favor generally, and by the powerful patronage of fore, the king had himself encouraged such perform the Earl of Leicester in particular. Accordingly, ances at court, by being present at a play in which in the year after they had obtained their patent, Luther and his wife were ridiculed. The act pro- James Burbage and his fellows took a large house hibits " ballads, plays, rlıymes, songs, and other fan- in the precinct of the dissolved monastery of the tasies" of a religious or doctrinal tendency, but at Black Friars, and converted it into a theatre. the same time carefully provides, that the clauses This was accomplished in 1576, and it is the first shall not extend to “ songs, plays, and interludes” time we hear of any building set apart for theatriwhich had for object “the rebuking and reproach- cal representations. Until then the various coming of vices, and the setting forth of virtue; so al panies of actors had been obliged to content themways the said songs, plays, or interludes meddle selves with churches, halls, with temporary erections not with the interpretations of Scripture."
in the streets, or with inn yards, in which they raised The permanent office of Master of the Revels, for a stage, the spectators standing below, or occupying the superintendence of all dramatic performances, the galleries that surrounded the open space. Just was created in 1546, and Sir Thomas Cawarden about the same period two other edifices were built was appointed to it with an annual salary of £10. for the exhibition of plays in Shoreditch, one of A person of the name of John Bernard was made which was called “The Curtain," and the other Clerk of the Revels, with an allowance of 80. per “ The Theatre.” Both these are mentioned as in day and livery.
existence and operation in 1577. Thus we see that It is a remarkable point, established by Mr. Tyt- two buildings close to the walls of the city, and a ler, that Henry VIII. was not yet buried, and Bishop third within a privileged district in the city, all exGardiner and his parishioners were about to sing a pressly applied to the purpose of stage-plays, were dirge for his soul, when the actors of the Earl of in use almost immediately after the date of the Oxford posted bills for the performance of a play in Patent to the players of the Earl of Leicester. It Southwark. This was long before the construction is extremely likely, though we have no distinct of any regular theatre on the Bankside ; but it evidence of the fact, that one or more play-houses shuws ut how early a date that part of the town was were opened about the same time in Southwark ; selected for such exhibitions.
and we know that the Rose theatre was standing Very soon after Edward VI. came to the throne, there not many years afterward. John Stockwood, severe measures were taken to restruin not only a puritanical preacher, published a sermon in 1578, dramatic performances, but the publication of in which he asserted that there were “eight ordidramas, Playing and printing plays were first nary places in and near London for dramatic exentirely suspended; then, the companies of noble- hibitions, and that the united profits were not less men were allowed to perform, but not without than £2000 a year, equal to £12,000 of money special authority; and, finally, the sign manual, now. Another divine, of the name of White, or the names of six of the Privy Council were equally opposed to such performances, preaching in required to their licenses. The objection stated 1576, called the play-houses at that time erected, was, that the plays had a political, not a polemical, “sumptuous theatres." No doubt, the puritanical purpose. One of the first acts of Mary's govern- zeal of these divines had been excited by the openment, was to issue a proclamation to put a stop to ing of the Blackfriars, the Curtain, and the Theatre, the performance of interludes calculated to advance in 1576 and 1577, for the exclusive purpose of the the principles of the Reformation; and we may be drama; and the five additional places, where plays, sure that the play ordered at the coronation of the according to Stockwood, were acted before 1578, queen was of a contrary description. It appears on were most likely a play-house at Newington-buits, other authorities, that for two years there was an or inn-yards, converted occasionally into theatres. entire cessation of public dramatic performances; We have thus brought our sketch of dramatic perbut in this reign the representation of the old Ro- formances and performers down to about the same man Catholic miracle plays was partially and au- period, the year 1583. We propose to continue it thoritatively revived.
to 1590, and to assume that as the period not, of It is not necessary to detail the proceedings in course, when Shakespeare first joined a theatrical
company, but when he began writing original pieces had players acting under their names at this date, for the stage. This is a matter which is more dis- and that each company consisted probably of eight tinctly considered in the biography of the poet; but or ten performers. On the same authority we learn it is necessary here to fix upon some date to which that theatrical representations upon the Sabbath had we are to extend our introductory account of the been forbidden; but this restriction does not seem progress and condition of theatrical affairs. What to have been imposed without a considerable strugwe have still to offer will apply to the seven years gle. Before 1581 the Privy Council had issued an from 1583 to 1590.
order upon the subject, but it was disregarded in The accounts of the revels at court about this some of the suburbs of London; and it was not unperiod afford us little information, and indeed for til after a fatal exhibition of bear-baiting at Paris several years, when such entertainments were cer- Garden, upon Sunday, June 13, 1583, when many tainly required by the Queen, we are without any persons were killed and wounded by the falling of a details either of the pieces performed, or of the scaffold, that the practice of playing, as well as cost of preparation. We have such particulars for bear-baiting, on the Sabbath was at all generally the years 1581, 1582, 1584, and 1587, but for the checked. In 1586, as far as we can judge from the intermediate years they are wanting.
information that has come down to our day, the The accounts of 1581, 1582, and 1584, give us order which had been issued in this respect was the following names of dramatic performances of pretty strictly enforced. At this period, and aftervarious kinds exhibited before the Queen:
wards, plays were not unfrequently played at court A comedy called Delight. Ariodante and Gencvora.
on Sunday, and the chief difficulty therefore seems to The story of Pompey. Pastoral of Phillida and Clo- have been to induce the Privy Council to act with A Game of the Cards.
rin. A comedy of Beauty and History of Felix and Philio- energy against similar performances in public theatres.
The annual official statement of the Master of the Housewifry. Love and Fortune, Five Plays in One.
Revels merely tells us, in general terms, that beHistory of Ferrar. Three Plays in One.
tween Christmas, 1586, and Shrovetide, 1587,"seven History of Telomo. Agamemnon and Ulysses.
plays, besides feats of activity, and other shows by This list of dramas (the accounts mention that the children of Paul's, her Majesty's servants, and others were acted without supplying their titles) the gentlemen of Gray's Inn," were prepared and establishes that moral plays had not yet been ex- represented before the Queen at Greenwich. No cluded. The “Game of the Cards” is expressly names of plays are furnished, but in 1587 was printed called “a comedy or moral,” in the accounts of a tragedy, under the title of “ The Misfortunes of 1582; and we may not unreasonably suppose that Arthur,” which purports to have been acted by some “Delight," and "Beauty and Housewifry,' were of of the members of Gray's Inn before the Queen, on the same class. “ The Story of Pompey,” and Feb. 28, 1587 : this, in fact, must be the very pro
Agamemnon and Ulysses," were evidently per- duction stated in the revels' accounts to have been formances founded upon ancient history, and such got up and performed by these parties; and it remay have been the case with '“ The History of quires notice, not merely for its own intrinsic excelTelomo.” “Love and Fortune" has been called lence as a drama, but because, in point of date, it is " the play of Fortune" in the account of 1573 ; and the second play founded upon English history reprewe may feel assured that “ Ariodante and Genevora” sented at court, as well as the second original theatwas the story told by Ariosto, which also forms part rical production in blank-verse that has been preof the plot of “ Much Ado about Nothing." “ The served. The example, in this particular, had been History of Ferrar” was doubtless “The History of set, as we have already shown, in “Gorboduc,” Error” of the account of 1577, the clerk having fifteen years before; and it is probable, that in that written the title by his ear; and we may reasonably interval not a few of the serious compositions exsuspect that “ Felix and Philiomena" was the tale hibited at court were in blank-verse, but it had not of Felix and Felismena, narrated in the “ Diana" yet been used on any of our public stages. of Montemayor. It is thus evident, that the Master The main body of "The Misfortunes of Arthur” of the Revels and the actors exerted themselves to was the authorship of Thomas Hughes, a member furnish variety for the entertainment of the Queen of Gray's Inn; but some speeches and two choruses and her nobility; but we still see no trace (“Gor- (which are in rhyme) were added by William Fulboduc” excepted) of any play at court, the materials becke and Francis Flower, while no less a man for which were obtained from the English Chroni- than Lord Bacon assisted Christopher Yelverton and cles. It is very certain, however, that anterior to John Lancaster in the preparation of the dumb1588 such pieces had been written, and acted before shows. Hughes evidently took “Gorboduc" as his public audiences; but those who catered for the model, both in subject and style, and, like Sackville court in these matters might not consider it expe- and Norton, he adopted the form of the Greek and dient to exhibit, in the presence of the Queen, any Roman drama, and adhered more strictly than his play which involved the actions or conduct of her predecessors to the unities of time and place. The predecessors.
author possessed a very bold and vigorous genius ; About this date the number of companies of actors his characters are strongly drawn, and the language performing publicly in and near London seems to they employ is consistent with their situations and have been very considerable. A person, who calls habits; his blank-verse, both in force and variety, is himself " a soldier," writing to Secretary Walsing. superior to that of either Sackville or Norton. ham, in January, 1586, tells him, that "
It is very clear, that up to the year 1580, about in the week the players' bills are set up in sundry which date Gosson published his “ Plays confuted places of the city," and after mentioning the actors in Five Actions,” dramatic performances on the of the Queen, the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of public stages of London were sometimes in prose, Oxford, and the Lord Admiral, he goes on to state that but more constantly in rhyme. In his "School of not fewer than two hundred persons, thus retained Abuse," 1579, Gosson speaks of “
books and employed, strutted in their silks about the streets. played at the Bell Savage;" but in his “Plays conIt may be doubted whether this statement is much futed" he tells us, that "poets send their verses to exaggerated, recollecting the many noblemen who the stage upon such feet as continually are rolled up in rhyme.” With one or two exceptions, all the as Nash aud Greene ridicule ; but we are to recolplays publicly acted, of a date anterior to 1590, that iect that Marlowe was at this time endeavoring to have come down to us, are either in prose or in wean audiences from the "jigging veins of rhyming rhyme. The case seems to have been different, as mother-wits," and that, in order to satisfy the ear already remarked, with some of the court-shows and for the loss of the jingle, he was obliged to give private entertainments ; but we are now adverting to what Nash calls “ the swelling bombast of bragging the pieces represented at such places as the theatre, blank-verge." This consideration will of itself acthe Curtain, Blackfriars, and in inn-yards adapted count for breaches of a more correct taste to be temporarily to dramatic amusements, to which the found in " Tamburlaine." In the Prologue, besides public was indiscriminately admitted. The earliest what we have already quoted, Marlowe tells the work, in which the employment of blank verse for audience to expect “high_astounding terms,” and the purpose of the common stage is noticed, is an he did not disappoint expectation. Perhaps the epistle by Thomas Nash introducing to the world better to reconcile the ordinary frequenters of pubhis friend Robert Greene's “Menaphon," in 1587; lic theatres to the change, he inserted various there, in reference to "vain-glorious tragedjans," scenes of low comedy, which the printer of the edihe says, that they are “ mounted on the stage of tion in 1590 thought fit to exclude, as digressing, arrogance," and that they " think to out-brave better and far unmeet for the matter." Marlowe likewise pens with the swelling bombast of bragging blank- sprinkled couplets here and there, although it is to verse." He afterwards talks of the “ drumming be remembered, that having accomplished his object lecasyllibon" they employed, and ridicules them for of substituting blank-verse by the first part of “ Tam
reposing eternity in the mouth of a player." This burlaine," he did not, even in the second part, think question is farther illustrated by a production by it necessary by any means so frequently to introduce Greene, published in the next year, “Perimedes, the occasional rhymes. In those plays which there is Blacksmith," from which it is evident that Nash had ground for believing to be the first works of Shakean individual allusion in what he had said in 1587. speare, couplets, and even stanzas, are more freGreene fixes on the author of the tragedy of “Tam- quent than in any of the surviving productions of burlaine," whom he accuses of " setting the end of Marlowe. This circumstance is, perhaps, in part scholarism in an English blank-verse," and who, it to be accounted for by the fact (as far as we may so should seem, had somewhere accused Greene of not call it) that our great poet retained in some of his being able to write it.
performances portions of old rhyming dramas, which We learn from various authorities, that Christo- he altered and adapted to the stage ; but in early pher Marlowe was the author of “ Tamburlaine the plays, which are to be looked upon as entirely his Great," a dramatic work of the highest celebrity own, Shakespeare appears to have deemed rhyme and popularity, printed as early as 1590, and afford- more necessary to satisfy the ear of his auditory ing the first known instance of the use of blank-than Marlowe held it when he wrote his “Tamburverse in a public theatre: the title-page of the edi- laine the Great." tion, 1590, states, that it had been " sundry times As the first employment of blank-verse upon the shown upon stages in the city of London.” In the public stage by Marlowe is a matter of much imprologue the author claims to have introduced a new portance, in relation to the history of our more anform of composition :
cient drama, and to the subsequent adoption of that "From jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits,
form of composition by Shakespeare, we ought not And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay,
to dismiss it without affording a single specimen We'll lead you to the stately tent of war," &c. from “ Tamburlaine the Great." The following is Accordingly, nearly the whole drama, consisting of a portion of a speech by the hero to Zenocrate, a first and second part, is in blank-verse. Hence when first he meets and sues to her: we see the value of Dryden's loose assertion, that
" Diedains Zenocrate to live with me, “Shakespeare was the first who, to shun the pains Or you, my lords, to be my followers ? of continual rhyming, invented that kind of writing Think you I weigh this treasure inore than you ! which we call blank-verse." The distinction belongs
Not all the gold in India's wealthy arms lo Marlowe, the greatest of Shakespeare's prede
Shall buy the meanest soldier in my train.
Zenocrate, lovelier than the love of Jove, cessors, and a poet who, if he had lived, might, Brighter than is the silver Rhodope, perhaps, have been a formidable rival of his genius.
Fairer than whitest snow on Scythian hills, We have too much reverence for the exhaustless
Thy person is more worth to Tamburlaine,
Than the possession of the Persian crown, originality of the great dramatist, to think that he
Which gracious sturs have promis'd at my birth. cannot afford this, or any other tribute to a poet, A hundred Tartars ehall attend on thee, who, as far as the public stage is concerned, deserves
Mounted on steeds swifter than Pegasus: to be regarded as the inventor of a new style of
Thy garments shall be made of Median silk,
Enchas'd with precious jewels of mine own, composition.
More rich and valurous than Zenocrate's : That the attempt was viewed with jealousy, there With milk.wbite hurts upon an ivory sled can be no doubt, after what we have quoted from
Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen poles,
And scale the icy mountains' lofty tops, Nash and Greene. It is most likely that Greene,
Which with thy beauty will be soon dissolvid." who was older than Nash, had previously written various dramas in rhyme; and the bold experiment Nash having alluded to “ Tamburluine" in 1587, of Marlowe having been instantly successful, Greene it is evident that it could hardly have been written was obliged to abandon his old course, and his ex- later than 1585 or 1586, which is about the period tant plays are all in blank-verse. Nash, who had when it has been generally, and with much appearattacked Marlowe in 1587, before 1593 (when Mur- ance of probability, supposed that Shakespeare arlowe was killed in an affray arising out of an amorous rived in London. In considering the state of the intrigue) had joined him in the production of a stago just before our great dramatist became a wri. blank-verse tragedy on the story of Dido, which was ter for it, it is clearly, therefore, necessary to advert printed in 1594.
briefly to the other works of Marlowe, observing in It has been objected to “ Tamburlaine,” that it is addition, with reference to “ Tamburlaine," that it written in a turgid and ambitious style, such indeed ) is an historical drama, in which not a single unity is regarded ; time, place, and action, are equally set possible, as he was ten years older than Shakeat defiance, and the scene shifts at once to or from speare, that he was a writer before any of them: it Persia, Scythia, Georgia, and Morocco, as best suit does not seem, however, that his dramas were ined the purpose of the poet.
tended for the public stage, but for court-shows or Marlowe was also, most likely, the author of a private entertainments. His “ Alexander and Camplay in which the Priest of the Sun was prominent, paspe," the best of his productions, was represented as Greene mentions it with “ Tamburlaine" in 1588, at Court, and it was iwice printed, in 1584, and but no such piece is now known : he, however, again in 1591: it is, like most of this author's prowrote “The Tragical History of the Life and Death ductions, in prose; but his “ Woman in the Moon” of Doctor Faustus,' “ The Massacre at Paris," (printed in 1597) is in blank-verse, and the "Maid's “The rich Jew of Malta," and an English historical Metamorphosis," 1600, (if indeed it be by him,) is play, called " The troublesome Reign and lamenta in rhyme. As none of these dramas, generally comble Death of Edward the Second," besides aiding posed in a refined, affected, and artificial style, can Nash in "Dido Queen of Carthage,” as already be said to have had any material influence upon mentioned. If they were not all of them of a date stage-entertainments before miscellaneous audiences anterior to any of Shakespeare's original works, in London, it is unnecessary for our present purpose they were written by a man who had set the exam- to say more regarding them. ple of the employment of blank-verse upon the pub- George Peele was about the same age as Lyly; lic stage, and perhaps of the historical and romantic but bis theatrical productions (with the exception drama in all its leading features and characteristics of " The Arraignment of Paris," printed in 1584, His “ Edward the Second" affords sufficient proof und written for the court) are of a different descripof both these points: the versification displays, tion, having been intended for exhibition at the orthough not perhaps in the same abundance, nearly dinary theatres. His “Edward the First” he calls all the excellences of Shakespeare; and in point of a “famous chronicle," and most of the incidents construction, as well as in interest, it bears a strong are derived from history: it is, in fact, one of our resemblance to the “Richard the Second” of the earliest plays founded upon English annals. It was great dramatist. It is impossible to read the one printed in 1593 and in 1599, but with so many imwithout being reminded of the other, and we can perfections, that we cannot accept it as any fair rephave no difficulty in assigning “Edward the Sec. resentation of the state in which it came from the onal" to an anterior period.
author's pen. The most remarkable feature belongThe same remark as to date may be made upon ing to it is the unworthy manner in which Peele the plays which came from the pen of Robert sacrificed the character of the Queen to his desire Greene, who died in September, 1592, when Shake to gratify the popular antipathy to the Spaniards: speare was rising into notice, and exciting the jeal- the opening of it is spirited, and affords evidence ousy of dramatists who had previously furnished the of the author's skill as a writer of blank-verse. His public stages. This jealousy broke out on the part “ Battle of Alcazar" may also be termed an historical of Greene in, if not before, 1592, (in which year drama, in which he allowed himself the most exhis “Groatsworth of Wit,” a posthumous work, travagant license as to time, incidents, and characters. was published by his contemporary, Henry Chettle,) It perhaps preceded his “ Edward the First" in when he complained that Shakespeare had “beau point of date, (though not printed until 1594,) and tified himself" with the feathers of others: he al- the principal event it refers to occurred in 1578. luded, as we apprehend, to the manner in which "Sir Clyomon and Clamydes" is merely a romance, Shakespeare had availed bimself of the two parts in the old form of a rhyming play; and “ David and of the "Contention between the Houses, York and Bethsabe," a scriptural drama, and a great improveLancaster," in the authorship of which there is ment upon older pieces of the same description : much reason to suppose Greene had been concerned. Peele here confined himself strictly to the incidents " The True Tragedy of Richard III.” is a drama of in Holy Writ, and it certainly contains the best about the same period, which has come down to us specimens of his blank-verse composition. His in a much mero imperfect state, the original manu- “Old Wives' Tale," in the shape in which it has script having been obviously very corrupt. It was reached us, seems hardly deserving of criticism, printed in 1594, and Shakespeare, finding it in the and it would have received little notice but for possession of the company to which he was attached, some remote, and perhaps accidental, resemblance probably had no scruple in constructing his "Rich- between its story and that of Milton's " Comus." ard the Third" of some of its rude muterials. It The “Jeronimo" of Thomas Kyd is to be looked seems not unlikely that Robert Greene, and perhaps upon as a species of transition play: the date of its some other popular dramatists of his day, had been composition, on the testimony of Ben Jonson, may engaged upon “ The True Tragedy of Richard III." be stated to be prior to 1588, just after Marlowo
Another of the dramatists who is entitled to be had produced his “ Tamburlaine," and when Kyd considered a predecessor of Shakespeare was hesitated to follow his bold step to the full exThomas Lodge. Only one play in which he was tent of his progress. "Jeronimo" is therefore unassisted has descended to us, and it bears the partly in blank-verse, and partly in rhyme: the title of “ The Wounds of Civil War, lively set forth same observation will apply, though not in the in the True Tragedies of Marius and Scylla.” It same degree, to Kyd's “Spanish Tragedy:" it is in was not printed until 1594, but the author began to truth a second part of “ Jeronimo," the story being write as early as 1580, and we may safely consider continued from one play to the other, and managed his fragedy anterior to the original works of Shake with considerable dexterity. The interest in the speare: it was probably written about 1587 or 1588, latter is great, and generally well sustained, and as a not very successful experiment in blank-verse, some of the characters are drawn with no little art in imitation of that style which Marlowe had at and force. The success of “ Jeronimo," doubtless, once rendered popular.
induced Kyd to write the second part of it immeAs regards the dates when his pieces came from diately; and we need not hesitate in concluding the press, John Lyly is entitled to earlier notice that “The Spanish Tragedy" had been acted before than Greene, Lodge, or even Marlowe; and it is 1590.